My memory of how I made friends with Aaliya at four fails me. All I remember is this feeling that I liked her as my friend. We never really got a proper goodbye. That feeling of a forced eviction from home and lost friends will always make me uncomfortable. It took me a long time to trust people and find the purpose of friendship. Making friends as an adult has been inherently complicated. My parents had lost friends to catastrophic mistrust as they left Kashmir. We never talked about it. We were raised to believe that family comes first and to keep our expectations realistic.
My friendships have never been set up in the belief that they will save me from tragedies. I just don’t view or screen friends under so much added pressure. The only true test of friends in my life is honesty and joy. Aloneliness is a tragedy, so yes, not from a security perspective but from a quality of life perspective, friends are critical. People who I consider friends bring me joy and make me think constructively. As I’ve grown older the value of a good conversation has become even more apparent.
Growing older has also meant that I no longer feel obliged to stay in relationships which make me feel awkward. I respect people who I don’t feel joyous with, but I don’t force myself to fit in. I’m grateful for my family that ensures I do not have relationships out of mere desperation or some sort of self-inflicted torture. It’s just not honest.
The Purpose of Friendships
Mine: Joy, honesty, support, interesting conversations and the need to share what I feel or think about.
How to Make Friends as an Adult
When I moved to the U.S. from Germany, one of my top to-dos was to be able to make friends. It’s not easy in your 30s and 40s. But the renewed ability to speak like an adult in a language I understood, gave me a realistic chance. I’ve moved 17 times since 2000 which hasn’t made the process of making friends easy. My best friends stay far and wide. There’s technology, but long distance relationships are hard. It has always been important for me to localize and constantly make new friends.
As I grow older, there’s a system to making friends. And all countries have different cultures. In Germany, it was important to speak the language. It was also important to join a verein or a club. Meeting other expats was always easy, because they were in the same place. Institutional friendships were not uncommon. I mean making friends at school, work and other places you’d be exposed to. I was lucky to meet great people through all these different channels.
In the U.S., it has been harder. I moved in without any institutional help. Many people my age have kids (and are busy). It’s also been tougher because you have to drive everywhere. But I am now looking at both these differences as blessings. When you have to make more effort, you typically make choices that you’re more comfortable with. This automatically ensures that you’re putting in an honest effort.
I’m glad that this country doesn’t leave you with an option but to pick a side. That does making finding your own bubble easier.
Are you on my calendar?
It’s impossible to make friendships without putting in effort and setting aside tangible time with deadlines. I mean planned calendar invites. This year I’ve made it a point to send my best friend short videos each month (inspired by her and also by my love for documenting life). It does feel like we’re talking with each other. I’m setting up dates with friends – especially new ones and dragging myself out on cold winter days because I care. And because friendships need dedicated time away from distractions.
I don’t want another coffee date with an acquaintance that’s laced with selfies and social media notifications. Instead, I want mutual respect for shared time. It’s a gift, and if both the people don’t realize it, then it’s probably not worth the extra cookies.
How are you making friends these days?